So, today sees me in Liverpool for work. Which is nice because it’s sunny and although I obviously have a bit of work to do when I get back to the hotel, for now I’ve come down to the Albert Docks for a wander, and that’s turned into me writing a post from a bench (screen brightness permitting).
Anyway, how’s that for a tangent? Let me tell you about Dubai…
It’s a place that I’ve always said I’d like to see, but wouldn’t want to invest a holiday on. Rather judgmentally, I put it into my little box of China and Vegas before I’d even been there. As you know, I love to travel and I particularly like places off the beaten track, which have culture and shonkyness and where you quite often go out wondering whether you’ll end up fighting a tuk tuk driver over a 30p fare, or waking up covered in paint after a Full Moon party with no idea how a crab ended up in the bunk bed above you. This is how I love to travel – without being able to ‘expect the unexpected’.
Once I became qualified to make a sweeping judgment, my impression of Dubai was that it is polished, finished, highly competitive and pretty outstanding, actually. It’s still not really my kind of place, but you can’t argue that it’s impressive. Everything from the Burj Khalifa (the big pointy one) to the snow dome in the Mall of the Emirates (the largest indoor snow dome in the largest shopping mall) – it all seemed to be “The World’s Largest”, which felt at times like a bit of pissing competition with the rest of the world, but it actually made me laugh a little... I sound equally as ludicrous for saying this, but the Burj Khalifa is so tall, it’s ridiculous. I can just imagine the architects going “higher, little more, little more, no, that’s only 2 times higher than the tallest building… More, little more… Ok, when you hit the stratosphere, stop.”
If you’ll excuse the pun, my highlights, below:
Brunch: This was a new concept for me. Brunch in England is eggs benedict, a smoothie and a nice cup of tea. Brunch in Dubai is pay 110 AED (about £18) to get as annihilated as you possibly can in two hours. There’s food too, and Nintendo Wii games. I was in my element. I redeemed myself at imaginary bowling, since my niece destroyed me in 2008, and discovered that it is possible to sample six different types of gin in two hours and live to tell the tale. Most of the hotels host Brunch on Fridays. If you know someone with the book, check out The Entertainer for discounts.
The Mall of the Emirates: I actually had to go here for a meeting. How I found my way around, I’ve no idea. I almost ended up skiing. This is where the locals spend their time when it’s too hot during the summer. I even saw someone going for a morning jog. It has over 700 stores, 560 brands and covers 2,400,000 square feet. Somebody told me that if you spent about 20 minutes in every shop, it’d take you almost two weeks to get around it.
The camels: This sounds ridiculous, but it never occurred to me that camels are wild out there. They roam at the side of the roads, just like cows do in England. This is obvious and if I’d thought about it I like to think that I’d have worked it out, but when I wasn’t expecting it I got more than a good few hours’ laughter from it.
The sea: Apart from the jelly fish (which were quite cute, but a little bit bite-y), the water was like a bath and absolutely stunning.
The Address Hotel: Everyone kept telling me that this is where David and Victoria Beckham stay when they come to Dubai. I've no idea about (or interest in) that, but it was a very nice place to frequent for, shall we say, one or two cocktails. If you reserve a table ahead by the window, you also get a birds-eye view of the water fountain show... Again, they've taken the Bellagio, Vegas fountains and added some steroids.
The outskirts: If you go to Dubai, I’d recommend taking a taxi or hiring a car to the outskirts – away from the city. Many drivers told me how if it wasn’t for the ‘crash’, the surrounding desert would also have been built up with commercial buildings, but I found it quite nice to look out to nothing except an awful lot of sand and camels.
And just a reminder…
Dubai is an Islamic, ‘dry’ city. I had less-travelled, married friends join me for a couple of days and they were really worried about what to wear, whether they could hold hands and whether they could drink. My, extremely unprofessional, advice is:
1) Use sense. You don’t have to fully cover up (in most places, reasonable length shorts or a skirt and not-to-skimpy tops are fine), but look around you. See what others are wearing. A bikini in the street is obviously going to be a no-no.
2) Use sense. Don’t go snogging your partners face off in the street. Holding hands is OK, but if you’re worried, don’t do it. It’s so hot there you’ll probably be keeping 5 paces ahead anyway.
3) Use sense. Some hotels and bars have alcohol licenses. In fact, I only saw one that didn’t (although that might say more about me than the culture). But, if you’ve had a couple and your jelly legs have kicked in, take a cab. Don’t walk the streets drunk. The police have Lamborghinis and they don’t want you having any accidents, even if the seats are leather.